Moorish Spain

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A number of people have pointed to this interesting piece from Saturday's London Telegraph that talks about the lingering animosity some Islamists may feel for Spain:

At the beginning of the 11th century, three quarters of Spain's population was Muslim but, as soon as the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella completed the reconquest of the country for Christianity, the Muslims were ordered out.

The humiliation has never been forgotten in the Arab world.

The sense of hurt has grown since Spain, for decades a friend of the Arab world, backed the US-led war on Iraq, despite vast domestic opposition.

A dozen al-Qa'eda-linked suspected terrorists have been arrested in Spain from among its burgeoning community from North Africa.

Bin Laden has identified Spain as a worthy target, and the "settling of old accounts" will send a tingle down many an old Spaniard's spine. Bin Laden gave warning that Spain would be singled out for attack in a taped message released last October through al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite channel.

He said Spain would be among six nations considered "special" targets for its role in the Iraq war. Bin Laden has also spoken of Al-Andalus, regarded with nostalgia by Islamists as the halcyon age of Muslim power and artistic achievement.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Shultz,
    It specifically says in the Koran that the whole world will NOT be Muslim and that some Christians and Jews will go to heaven. Of course, what the Koran says never mattered much to Islamists. The Koran is just a cover for their own desires and beliefs.

  2. Pavel–

    I am not the knee-jerk blow-em-up type you seem to believe. In fact, on other occasions I’ve been accused of America-bashing, appeasement, you name it.

    But seriously: how much understanding do we need? I understand that they have religious objections to us. I understand their dreams of lost glory. I even understand that America is far from angelic in its foreign policy, so that in some ways you can say we are reaping what we’ve sowed. I understand that the Palestinians have legitimate gripes, and I even understand what drives some of them to terrorism.

    Okay, great. I have achieved understanding IN ADDITION to a live-and-let-live policy toward anyone willing to play, and yet the bastards STILL want to either blow me up or put me in a burka. So what should I do now–continue to seek understanding or defend myself and my way of life?

  3. Schultz:
    “So how can an Islamist explain why a society like Spain, that was once ruled by Islamic Law and peopled by traditional Muslims, refused Islam and now enjoys a standard of living many years on that the average Muslim can only dream of?”

    First off how you measure standard of living is different. If you drive a Jag, and live in hollywood, but your wife can drive and you don’t pray 5 times a day, then they might see your life as not as good as theirs.

    Also, if they really looked at why the standards of living are different, they might be able to fix their own country.

    Instead they looked at why they lost the battles that lead to losing the empire. The conclusion tought in the Wahabi school is that they lost because they were not pure in their religion, and God was punishing them.

    An interesting side note;
    I think that after Bagdad fell, one of Gengis Khans generals told the Sultan that Allah sent him to punish the Moslems for not being faithfull to their religion.

  4. “It’s all the more a necessary option when our enemy is no longer wearing nice marked uniforms and standing in neat formations in designated borders. They’re not wearing swastikas or white sheets. They’re not a single wacky offshoot movement. ”

    This alters the tactics used when we apply force to stop the loonies. It does not imply that these are not loonies, nor does it confer onto them a shield against retaliation. When retaliation is dead, so is deterrence.

  5. Thorley, try this one: http://www.ict.org.il/inter_ter/orgdet.cfm?orgid=74

    “In what was hailed at the time as one of its most successful covert operations, America?s Central Intelligence Agency launched a $500 million-per-year campaign to arm and train the impoverished and outgunned mujahedin guerrillas to fight the Soviet Union.”

    That was Afghanistan in the early ’80s. OBL was one of seven main groups of the mujahedin.

  6. kwais: What you describe as a standard of living seems more of a societal power structure. The Islamist man has more personal power (over his wife), but more of his brother’s children die in infancy (a simple measure of living standards). He may value his domestic authority over the lives of his children. Likely, he doesn’t see the relation between his choices and his outcome. To an economist, he prefers a lower standard of living. To a psycho-sociologist, his self-worth is proportional to his ability to command. To me he is a King in Hell.

    In some genuine sense, I can never fully understand an Islamist enemy. I was not born into and raised within an Arabic/Islamic culture. As much as I study the history, or even convert to the religion, I will never know all the aspects of that life. For those who argue for understanding, how much must I understand before you accept my rejection of the violent Islamist and seek to prevent him blowing me away?

  7. The most convienient measure of the standard of living in this case is probably GDP per capita. The Muslim world ranks only above sub-saharan Africa by this measure.

    I have often heard commentators talk about the effect of satelite television in the Muslim world. It’s one of the explanations people give for how Muslims living in Iran, for instance, know that they’ve fallen behind economicly.

    Islamists in both the distant and recent past often blamed the impiety of their own people for their problems, no doubt. But, in the recent past, we’ve had two Islamic States emerge, Iran and Afghanistan, and in terms of the standard of living, both of them were complete failures. Unable to blame the poverty of their societies on the impiety of the people in power, they both became huge sponsers of terror along the lines I mentioned above.

    P.S. I am no one’s imam. But it is my understanding that the Koran teaches that after Isa’s Second Coming, we will all either be with Satan or we will be Muslims.

  8. I don’t mean to sound like Andrea Dworkin here, but you guys talking about the feelings of the average Islamist kind of assumes that only men exist. What about the women? In the Islamic world you generally have more than half the population absolutely forbidden to play any role in these societies, forbidden to make their feelings, opinions and desires even known, and then you serenely try to suggest that as long as there’s a religious or cultural excuse for this behavior, it is somehow okay?

    I don’t give a damn about cultural sensitivity–any philosophy that tries to put more than half of humanity under permanent and irrefutable house arrest is inferior to one that allows all humans access to participate in society.

  9. I agree with Gadfly.

    Refusing to consider the kinds of blowback U.S. foreign policy leads to is like refusing to stop stirring up a hornet’s nest with a stick, because “it would mean letting the hornets win.” Or refusing to stop hitting your head against the wall because that would be “appeasing your headache.”

    The number of crazies in the world is not finite. Being an imperial power with garrisons in half the countries in the world will inevitably lead to blowback. Had not a bunch of geniuses decided destabilizing Hafizullah Amin would be a brilliant chess move against the Soviets, and had not Bush I seen a splendid little war in the Gulf a useful way to stave off dismantling the permanent war economy, I believe the WTC would still be standing.

  10. I know you’re all bright people. I certainly don’t mean to lump anyone with simpleton warmongers anymore than I want to be lumped as a pacifist. But from my view “understanding” is much more lacking than “decisiveness” in foreign policy and in general perception.

    I certainly don’t disagree that those responsible for terrorism ought be eliminated. Although I find the idea of retaliation as deterent against people willing to blow themselves up a bit…silly. The problem is if you really believe that annihilating every last terrorist responsible for violence is more than just a fragment of the solution, I have to part ways with you.

    What’s more bothersome to me is how little understanding of Islamic culture people (especially those in charge) have. And not just extremist culture, but the Islamic world in general. Of course extremists will be extremists and generally, there’s nothing you can do to WHAM with them. But that’s not the point. The point is to isolate the extremists from the general mainstream. The only way you do that without killing everyone or making them exactly like you is to “understand.” Sorry if it invokes a general gag reflex and reminds you of songs about peace and love, but it is what it is.

  11. “Refusing to consider the kinds of blowback U.S. foreign policy leads to is like refusing to stop stirring up a hornet’s nest with a stick, because “it would mean letting the hornets win.” Or refusing to stop hitting your head against the wall because that would be “appeasing your headache.””

    Do you hold McVeigh and the KKK to the same standard?

    Interesting that you choose analogies that have non thinking causes of harm that can’t be deterred and have no agenda of their own.

    I don’t see the moral clarity that most libertarians seem to have on foreign policy. Depending on the nature of the problem, inaction can be every bit the cause of hostility as action. The choice to do nothing is still a choice with consequences, and there is no inherent righteousness to that position, except that action costs more in the short run.

    If we let Saddam have Kuwait, then let him have Saudi, then let him have UAE, it is probably a reach to say that the Arab world would love us more. In the absence of military threat, are you inviting Kim Jong Il to blitz into the south, too?

  12. “Although I find the idea of retaliation as deterent against people willing to blow themselves up a bit…silly.”

    UBL isn’t willing to blow himself up.

  13. “This isn’t mindless terrorism. It’s purposefully calculated to get our asses out of the Mideast”

    Osama has bigger plans.

    I’ve got several excerpts regarding Spain, al Andalus, etc. here.

  14. Lonewacko-

    I think I see it clearly now: Osama will reconquer Spain. Then he will claim all of the former Spanish empire, including Mexico. Then he’ll use his control over Mexico to manipulate the MEChA sleeper cells preparing a Reconquista of California.

    Too bad they released that Spanish economist at the airport. He could be the key to the whole thing!

  15. I’m sidin’ with you Pavel. Just wish I weren’t so busy today.
    Do you blog on Antiwar.com?

  16. “Refusing to consider the kinds of blowback U.S. foreign policy leads to is like refusing to stop stirring up a hornet’s nest with a stick, because ‘it would mean letting the hornets win.'”

    Damn straight Kevin. Actually, I prefer to use a bat, rather than a stick. Brings down the nest a bit quicker.

    In any case, after the first painful few hours, and the week in the hospital recovering from the allergic reaction, the hornets are GONE, man. At least until next year.

  17. Pavel,

    “What’s more bothersome to me is how little understanding of Islamic culture people (especially those in charge) have.”

    My question to you & others pleading for more “understanding” would be – Exactly how much understanding is enough ? Our universities are bursting with Middle East studies programs, post-colonialist studies, “orientalist” programs and the like. Turn on the TV and you are likely to see an “islamic studies” talking head. You’ll finds lots of books on the topic of ME/islam on bestseller lists many of which are quite sympathetic to the religion & region. Not too long ago there was a book on muslim Andalusia, very well reviewed if i remember right, which offered the usual preposterous thesis of how that land was a shining beacon of religious amity and how we should learn from its example etc, etc.
    Seems to me that people who plead for yet more understanding are really asking us to concede that its “our fault”. How about if they spent more time trying to understand us ? How about if “they” studied the “Bill of Rights”, the geneva convention and all the rest of it for a change ?

  18. Your argument seems to be “alright, I read the book (english version) so now I understand it. Now, do it my way.”

    The Arabs understand us by observing our fixation on their oil and our increasingly one-sided support for Israel. They don’t have to read no stinking books.

  19. Great. I “understand”. Can anyone spare a white kerchief ?

  20. Tacitus has a good post on al Andalus here. There’s a rundown of Spanish parties here. Some of those are “Nationalist,” meaning they might favor regional independence.

    All of this has little to do with Chicano separatism, aside from the fact that some of those met with the PLO several years ago. There is also a growing AQ presence in Latin America.

  21. Seems to me that people who plead for yet more understanding are really asking us to concede that its “our fault”

    What’s really interesting to me is how anytime someone basically suggests something to the effect of “analyize the situation,” it immediately gets tied up with pacifism, passivity, tolerance, and blaming-the-victim.

    SM,

    I honestly can’t say I’ve seen Islamist talking pundits on TV or books on the glories of Islam piling on the shelves, sorry. Even if it is true, fruity romanticism isn’t understanding.

  22. Pavel: Those that abstain from violence have only analysis and understanding in their toolkit. When I hear “understanding” from a person I am not familiar with it is reasonable for mean to assume pacifism. Perhaps not an ideal reaction, but reasonable and understandable.

    Jennifer: Absolutely, ignoring the potential of half a population condemns that group to a lower living standard. As vile as I find the practice, it is not sufficient for me to instigate a violent change. That satellite TV Shultz refers to will likely promote more internal strife as women become acquainted with the idea of controlling their own lives.

  23. Pavel,

    “I honestly can’t say I’ve seen Islamist talking pundits on TV or books on the glories of Islam piling on the shelves, sorry”

    Step 1. Walk into the nearest Barnes & Nobles, find the History (Middle East) section. You’ll find 2/three shelves of material.
    Step 2. Libraries. Fire up the browser. Search keywords – islam/middle east etc. Presto, lots of material.

    “Even if it is true, fruity romanticism isn’t understanding.”

    That’s the whole problem. No result will ever be contrued as “true” understanding.

  24. “The Arabs understand us by observing our fixation on their oil and our increasingly one-sided support for Israel. They don’t have to read no stinking books.”

    In the future, Senor Gadfly, will you spell “stinking” “steenking”?
    It will make Latino readers feel so much more comfortable joining in. I think they may be inclined to agree with you.

  25. This, I think, is the key sentence from that piece:

    “While the authentiticy of the message is open to doubt, there is no question that it reflects the thinking of Islamists, who hold that any land which has once been part of the Muslim community should forever remain under Muslim rule.”

    Your side lost. Get over it. And if you think that you had the right to conquer “Christendom” in the first place, then why doesn’t Christendom have the right to defend itself and kick your butts out?

  26. I think this article illustrates why asking, “Why do they hate us?” is often pointless. Very often aggression, especially seemingly irrational aggression, is driven by the internal world view and political dynamics of the aggressive group The external victims of their aggression are quite often just stage props in the aggressor’s psycho-drama.

    The near hallucinatory world view of the Imperial Japanese decision makers leading up to WWII is a good example of this phenomenon. I think the Islamist suffer the same problem.

  27. Yes, there is polling data:

    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20040315/D81AHBR80.html

    “Before the attacks, polls had given the governing party a lead of 3-5 percentage points.”

    People like this guy made the difference:

    “I wasn’t planning to vote, but I am here today because the Popular Party is responsible for murders here and in Iraq,” said Ernesto Sanchez-Gey, 48, who voted in Barcelona.

    So a certain portion of the public did ask themselves “what did we do to cause this” and “why do they hate us” and “what can we do to make the terrorsits like us more”.

    All is not lost though:

    “Zapatero began his victory speech with a minute of silence for those killed in the terror attacks.
    “At this moment I think of the lives that were broken by terror on Thursday,” he said. “My most immediate priority will be to fight terrorism.””

  28. Make new enemies, but keep the old:
    One is arsenic, the other lead.

  29. “Being an imperial power with garrisons in half the countries in the world will inevitably lead to blowback.”

    Being the biggest economic and military power in the world will lead to blowback. Even if the US did nothing with that power it will still be resented. One of the things that bothers the Islamists (among others) is America’s cultural influence on the world and their own society. How would you deal with that aspect of their hate? Furthermore, no matter what foreign policies the US pursues, they will piss off some faction, because you cannot please everyone at once, someone will perceive their ox as being gored. Therefore, any US leadership should be prepared to do what it thinks is right and proper.

    If you are paralyzed into inaction because you fear the response of small minded radicals who are willing to kill indiscriminately, you will be forever at their mercy. The “imperial power” criticism of the US is simplistic, it offers no realistic answers on how to deal with America’s enemies.

  30. Like Shannon, I often scratch my head at the notion that we need to understand why the bomber is angry so we can act accordingly.

    Why did nobody talk about dismantling the federal government when McVeigh was angry? Further action will only anger like minded people, right?

    The only reasonable approach to homicidal maniacs is to track them down and pound them into dust, and assume that anyone who gives a penny or donates a tent to the cause is complicit. After the threat has been neutralized by way of force, we then have the luxury to contemplate the nature of psychosis. I don’t feel compelled to attain a deep understanding of the man who is punching me in the face, at least, not until later.

  31. I thought there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaida?

  32. “I thought there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaida?”

    Not before the invastion!

    Okay, some say there was a connection all along and I haven’t figured out if that’s true or not. But regarding Matthew Cromer’s logic, the Spain bombing is consistent with those who warned that invading Iraq would have the effect of creating a connection where none existed before.

    Not that Al-Qaeda isn’t psychotic nor that “understanding” the enemy is preferable to fighting them. Just responding….

  33. So the Islamists are assholes because Ferdinand and Isabella pissed them off back in 1492? Haven’t these idiots heard of a “statute of limitations?”

    Better yet, let’s find some Christian, Jewish and Animist terrorists willing to set bombs in modern Islamic countries in retaliation for the way the Arabs conquered their countries back in the tenth century. That would solve all our problems, wouldn’t it?

    (I should mention now that this is sarcasm, lest some self-righteous posters point out that people like me are just part of the problem.)

  34. I’m sorry, but the “why should we bother to understand them” line of thinking is stupid. You have something better to do? Is knowing just too much of a burder on your unfiltered rage?

    I can’t remember the last time we made a national mistake because we just went too far in understanding our enemies.

    I can think of many times where disaster was a direct result of dismissing groups as extremists, nuts and wackos that materialized out of thin air. Waco anyone?

  35. Pavel:

    I’m all for understanding, as long as we can do so while taking direct action to neutralize the threat. I take exception to the notion that understanding someone’s anger is a substitute for active defence.

    Certainly, in your example, if we have the time, lets understand.

  36. Pavel–
    It would be foolish to try and lock ourselves in a fortress and ignore the rest of the world, but I think “Understanding” these people can only go so far. Nobody asks Jews to “try and understand” why the Nazis hate them. Nobody expects blacks to “try and understand” the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan.

    I understand them perfectly: they’re hateful bigots who want to shove their God down my throat. Why should their status be different from the Nazis or the Klan?

  37. For every successful extremist there are some mocerates who sympathize with him, and those moderates often aid him via inaction.

    Figuring out why those moderates are ticked off and sympathetic can be useful. Not that we should bend over backwards to satisfy them, but no war has ever been lost because we knew too much about our enemy.

  38. Here’s the deal on understanding:
    Understand well enough to do an inventory of whatever you’re doing that’s pissing off the other party. Then, unless it’s a great inconvenience, stop doing those things.

    Only if you still have a problem should you consider being Ruthless.

  39. It’s not necessary to go back hundreds of years to get to the bottom of this. Al Quaeda, our buddy when they were chasing the Russians out, turned on us when we left a large military force in the Mideast after GWI. If you believe OBL, that led directly to the first WTC garage bombing and 911 which led us to placing an even larger force which led to bombing in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Phillipines Spain and elsewhere. The tactics have now changed the Spanish government, seriously hurt Tony Blair and may take out Bush in November.

    This isn’t mindless terrorism. It’s purposefully calculated to get our asses out of the Mideast. Should there be a discussion of this or should we just flail away?

  40. Given the timing of the bombings, does anyone here think Al Qaida might attempt a similar attack in the U.S. in early November, and would it serve to rally the populace to Bush rather than mirror the Spanish election?

  41. Gadfly-
    I suspect that our troops being in the Mideast is an excuse for their hatred, not the cause of it. After all, Ayatollah Khomeini was ranting about ‘the Great Satan” long before the Gulf War. And the only reason we went over there in the first place was to save a countryful of Muslims (Kuwait).

    Hell, 9-11 happened as we were in the middle of pulling our troops out of Saudi Arabia. If every American soldier vanished from the Middle East the Muslims would still hate us, only they’d find different reasons.

  42. Gadfly wrote:

    Al Quaeda, our buddy when they were chasing the Russians out

    Really? Evidence please.

  43. Jennifer,

    I get the sense that you’re loading the term “understand” with separate concepts such as excusing, placating, and passively tolerating.

    As if understanding implies going the full Neville Chamberlain hog. No. It just means gaining knowledge of. You can do this while still deciding that annihilation is the only option.

    It’s all the more a necessary option when our enemy is no longer wearing nice marked uniforms and standing in neat formations in designated borders. They’re not wearing swastikas or white sheets. They’re not a single wacky offshoot movement.

    So really, your They’re-A-Bunch-of-Bastards-Let’s-Pound-Them attitude is a quaint anachronism. It’s really more about rhetoric than about what’s really going on. But the fact that we still use the same way of talking makes brainless America-chest-pumping self-serving bravado an all too easy caricature.

  44. Understanding the enemy is more than trying to figure out “why they hate us.” We shouldn’t expect the Jews to understand why the Nazi’s hated them, but we should try to understand what led to the Nazi’s powers. That’s a big reason why we helped rebuild Japan and Germany after WWII, the old model of win and make them pay back didn’t work anymore.

    We need to do a similar analysis, once we clean out the violent extremists, how can we best situate the region to flourish and be peaceful afterwards? This doesn’t preclude the use of force, but understanding the enemy’s motivzation (the moderates at least) is a key to ending conflict.

  45. Nazi’s powers = Nazi’s rise to power

  46. Many Islamists like to point out that when Cordova was under Muslim control, it was the most advanced city in Europe. They sometimes sound like Nazis preaching about some glorious past that was stolen. This supposed theft is then used to justify all sorts of atrocities.

    When dealing with Islamists, don’t forget that they really do believe in God and Satan. They believe that, eventually, the whole world will become Muslim. Hence, to Islamists, Muslim defeats in Vienna and Spain can only be explained in the context of a war between God and Satan.

    Coming from a culture dominated by Christianity, most Americans don’t have a problem with the idea that things happen on this earth that are not necessarily God’s will. But Muslims don’t believe in Original Sin; to most Muslims, EVERYTHING that happens is God’s will.

    So how can an Islamist explain why a society like Spain, that was once ruled by Islamic Law and peopled by traditional Muslims, refused Islam and now enjoys a standard of living many years on that the average Muslim can only dream of?

    They can’t, so they blow it up.

  47. Pavel: I suspect the posters on H&R are much more sophisticated in their thoughts than the average “pound ’em” types. In the same way that your interpret their violent response as ignorance, they hear your “understanding” as an echo of the popular apologists.

    What’s really going on is that disinterested humans are being murdered on their way to work. Now, the murderers have seen their violence (wisely applied at the margin of opinion) lead to the desired result. Expect more violence. It works.

    That’s my understanding.

  48. ‘The “imperial power” criticism of the US is simplistic, it offers no realistic answers on how to deal with America’s enemies.’

    As if the “transcendance evil” theory theory provides realistic answers.

    I heard some idiot saying he was glad “The Passion of the Christ” was released, because it encouraged people to think about eternal, transcendant evil during the war on terror. Well, we weren’t attacked by eternal, transcendant evil, we were attacked by specific people, with specific history and motivations. Insisting that their swarthy horned devils and that’s all we need to know is counterproductive, self-aggrandizing macho bullshit.

  49. No joe, the most important thing to know about the Islamists is that they have absolutely no moral scruples about killing large numbers of ordinary people going about their business in order to further their political goals. If that’s not evil enough for you, then you’re hopeless.

    The second most important thing is that the people they are targeting for death are our own citizens and those of our nation’s allies. The main reason to understand what the Islamists political goals are is to deny them.

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